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Specialized Epic (from 90s) headset problems

ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
edited March 2014 in Workshop
Hi,

I've got a Specialized Epic which I bought late 90s second hand. So its from the mid 90s presumably.

The headset has never been right. It's rattling. I tighten it and it still rattles and the steering is too tight. I know there's indentations from the bearings certainly on the bottom of the headset bearings. Etc. etc. I want to replace it in the hope of completely getting rid of headset troubles.

What kind of headset do I need? It's threaded I think, but what replacement type specifically? Any actual suggestions?
What special tools, if any, do I need?

Thanks.

Posts

  • Try the Cane Creek headset finder for which one

    http://www.canecreek.com/headset-fit-finder

    and Park Tools maintenance site for tools and techniques,

    http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-hel ... et-service
  • gozzygozzy Posts: 640
    A photo might help...
  • ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
    > http://www.canecreek.com/headset-fit-finder

    Yes I'd already tried that a while ago. It's not, at the moment anyway, helpful. For Specialized and Epic, the year options available are 2008 and 2014 which definitely aren't right.

    > A photo might help…







    Any help/use?

    Thanks.
  • gozzygozzy Posts: 640
    1" threaded by the looks of it. Does your fork steerer have a thread on it?
  • ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
    Thanks for the info/reply.
    gozzy wrote:
    Does your fork steerer have a thread on it?

    Fork steerer, is that this bit?:



    If so, yup.
  • You need a 1 inch threaded headset by the look of it. If you're un sure measure the diameter of the fork steerer tube. If it's an inch then...you need an inch headset. If it's 1.125" you need an 1"1/8 headset. But you definitely need a threaded headset, not an A-headset.

    They're really cheap headsets, around £10. Pick them up from most bike shops. you might find the smaller, local shops are more likely to have one.
  • ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
    Great, thanks for that.

    The thing I've pointed to with a red arrow, is that the fork steerer?
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,365
    Yes that's the steerer marked with red arrow. People always recommend using the proper tool, a headset press, to replace traditional headsets like this although you can make up one yourself with threaded studding, two big nuts and washers from a DIY shop.

    I've successfully used the technique suggested years ago in Richard's Bicycle Book. Although serious mechanics will tell you this method is a bodge up. However, it has worked fine for me. Here's a rough explanation:

    Use a screwdriver to pry off the crown fork race (a cone shaped ring on the bottom of the fork steerer) and use a large screwdriver or metal rod to tap out and pry off the cup and cone shaped races (called bottom and top set races in Richard's book) which are a press fit at the top and bottom of the head tube. Slide new crown race into place over steerer and tap it carefully and evenly with your screwdriver or some pipe so it sits straight on the fork crown. Use a hammer on a wooden block to carefully tap in place the cup and cone shaped races on bottom and top of the head tube without damaging them. You could also use wooden blocks and a bench vice to squeeze them in place. Make sure they sit straight.

    You then grease the bearings and assemble them in the cups and screw down the top threaded cup race onto the bearings before tightening the lock nut. Adjusting is a bit of a fiddle. You need to eliminate any play, which you can feel by applying front brake and rocking bike back and forth with your finger on the bottom cup, while ensuring the bars will turn smoothly side to side.

    You will need at one headset spanner and a big adjustable spanner, or two headset spanners, to tighten and loosen the head set. When you finally tighten it all up use both spanners acting against each other.

    Most traditional threaded steerer headsets are one inch although I've had one and a quarter inch headsets from two bikes from the early 90s - a Cannondale mountain bike and a Bike Friday performance folder. I've used Richard's method to replace the headsets on both.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,365
    An added problem if you do have a one and a quarter inch threaded steerer headset - they are virtually impossible to find nowadays. I managed to get one three or four years ago from Avon Valley Cyclery in Bath for my Bike Friday.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,365
    Just had another thought. You can tell how much threaded headsets have caused me a headache over the years!

    You can often give a worn headset like yours a new lease of life without replacing it. I've done it.

    Most headsets like this have the ball bearings in retaining cages. Go to a cycle or bearing shop with your old caged bearings and get loose balls to replace the old ones. Fit the loose balls with plenty of grease. The loose balls will sit slightly differently in the cup and cone from the old caged bearings and so accordingly they won't drop into the indentations so much. It won't be perfect but it will be much smoother. It's normally only the bottom race which wears out like this.
  • gozzygozzy Posts: 640
    As above, if there's no pitting on the bearing races then new balls is a cheap, easy fix that saves all the awkward bits of headset replacement.

    Of course, it might have sealed bearing units in it. In which case a new headset is probably going to be easier.
  • ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
    > You need a 1 inch threaded headset by the look of it. If you're un sure measure the diameter of the fork steerer tube. If it's an inch then...you need an inch headset. If it's 1.125" you need an 1"1/8 headset.

    d = C/π. Right, I'll measure that with a bit of cotton without having to take it apart.

    > People always recommend using the proper tool, a headset press, to replace traditional headsets like this although you can make up one yourself with threaded studding, two big nuts and washers from a DIY shop.

    There was a thread about messing around with a BB30 a little while ago and the poster had the idea of using a a cheap headset tool from ebay for it, which he linked to, but it turned out not to work for the BB30

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll? ... 1271972752

    > two headset spanners

    Got those.

    Right, Mercia Man, so from those instructions I don't even need the headset press.

    When you say some people say it's a bodge without a headset press, does that mean it's just harder, but the end result is/should be the same?

    Great, thanks for those instructions. Very helpful.

    > if there's no pitting on the bearing races then new balls is a cheap, easy fix that saves all the awkward bits of headset replacement.

    The races are pitted I think. The headset is generally not in good shape. I'm looking forward to replacing the whole thing, especially if they only cost £10.

    > it might have sealed bearing units in it

    No, I don't think that's the case. They're ball bearings in a kind of brace, or a cage, something like these: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/BICYCLE-HEADS ... 1236413847

    Great, thanks for the info.
  • ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
    I've measured the circumference of the bit indicated in red,



    and it comes to 70mm. The diameter of that is 22.3 mm. That's 0.88 inches. Have I measure the wrong bit? Thanks.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,365
    Installing a new headset with a hammer or vice and blocks of wood is said to be a bodge because there is a risk of pushing the press fit parts in unevenly. This will result in poor steering and very rapid wear. However, if you do it carefully, a bit at a time and making sure all along that it goes in straight, it should be OK. Professional mechanics may look down on doing it like this, but it's worked fine for me.

    It sounds to me that you have a one inch headset. They are the most common for threaded steerers. If your headset spanners are a size 32 and fit your locknut, your headset should be a one inch. My one and a quarter inch headsets take a 40 spanner. I also have a 36 headset spanner which I assume fits 1 1/8.

    The bearings you refer to on eBay are typical caged headset bearings. Unless your races are really badly pitted and rusted, you can get your worn headset to work pretty well by throwing away the old caged bearings and fitting loose balls from a cycle shop, as I suggested earlier. You first clean and polish up your worn races with something like Solvol Autosol metal polish. You then fill the cups with grease and carefully place in loose balls until they not quite fill the space. You don't want them packed in so tightly against each other that they won't roll freely. Using loose balls as opposed to a caged bearing means you will get in probably an extra ball. This will give greater load bearing capacity and the loose balls will sit differently to the caged balls so that will eliminate or reduce roughness when you turn the bars.

    Obviously, the above is not the perfect solution. But it is a cheap and easy way of bringing new life to a worn out headset.

    But replacing the complete headset is not that hard. When I replaced my first headset on a mountain bike in the 1980s using Richard's Bicycle Book as my guide, I found that removing the old headset was the hardest part because it was seized in tight and I needed Plus Gas to loosen it. Fitting the new cups with hammer and wooden blocks was straightforward.
  • ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
    Yup the two locknuts are 32 mm ones. I'm going to replace the whole thing rather than just the bearings. I'll get a 1 inch headset. Great, thanks for that info.

    I'm thinking of this one
    http://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/sp/road-t ... trohstr455
    Or I might go for an even cheaper one.

    Thanks.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,365
    That Stronglight is a good headset. I have the older version with non-cartridge bearings on my touring bike. One thing you have to ensure is that the headset stack height - the amount that the lock nut and cup go upwards - are about the same as your existing headset. They look pretty much the same to me. Some headsets are very low profile and some are very high which means they might not fit your steerer. But your original and the Stronglight look similar.

    Just be very careful when you knock it in place to make sure you don't damage the Stronglight headset as it's alloy. That's why using a hammer on a block of wood is important to prevent you bending it. Steel headsets are a bit easier to get in and there is less chance of damaging them. Tange always used to do good ones. But the Stronglight A9 is a deservedly popular classic.

    Good luck. Bike repairs and maintenance are just a question of having a go and learning from your experiences. Older bikes are often easier to work on than a £5,000 modern carbon superbike. And there's less panic if something goes a bit wrong!
  • ben-----ben----- Posts: 573
    > older version with non-cartridge bearings

    That was one of the cheaper ones I was considering. Still might go for that. Only seems to be available in black though.

    > Older bikes are often easier to work on than a £5,000 modern carbon superbike. And there's less panic if something goes a bit wrong!

    Absolutely. Great, thanks for the all the info. Very useful.
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